152

Percy Heath: A Love Song

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count
Percy Heath: A Love Song On the photos included with A Love Song, Percy Heath shows off the greatest grin in jazz since Louis Armstrong. And he has good reason to flash that smile; at eighty years young, he's just issued his first recording as a leader (can that be true, after fifty plus years in the business?), where he displays his transcendent gifts as a bass and cello player and tunesmith on a simply beautiful quartet outing.

Percy Heath is the eldest of jazz's famous Heath brothers—Albert "Tootie" Heath sits in on drums here—and was a founding member of the Modern Jazz Quartet. He has played and recorded with everyone—Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Bud Powell, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, to name just a handful.

A Love Song features the unusual configuration of two basses (with Percy's cello, on "Watergate Blues") with piano and drums, for a sound that is suffused with an insistent and quietly muscular flow, full of lower register subtleties—an uncluttered, unpretentious and arresting music.

The set contains four Heath originals, John Lewis's loveliest and probably most-recorded tune, "Django"; Sir Roland Hanna's "Century Rag"; and "Hanna's Mood," from the pen of this outing's pianist, Jeb Patton.

The set opens with Heath's solo tune, the wistful "A Love Song," about loss of love. "Watergate Blues," another Heath original, brings a jaunty step into the quartet sound, with the leader plucking a piquant cello in front of Peter Washington's throbbing bass lines. John Lewis's "Django," one of jazz's most gorgeous tunes, has always seemed a perfect composition, an unquestionable classic of the genre. It gets a new treatment here, with the bass playing melody.

I pulled out the Modern Jazz Quartet's early Prestige CD of the same name and alternated the two versions for a spell. Breathtaking, both of them, masterpieces of understated chamber jazz atmosphere. Both of them. The take of "Django" on A Love Song would surely be the highlight if not for Heath's "Suite for Pop," written for his father. The second section, "Lament," especially, seems every bit as classic a tune. Time will tell.

The quartet closes with pianist Patton's "Hanna's Mood," written for his teacher and mentor, Sir Roland Hanna, with a melancholy yet still hopeful feeling.

A Love Song has the same pared down, uncluttered atmosphere as the best of the Modern Jazz Quartet outings, with the tandem basses laying a foundation of quiet strength and eternal, unshakeable serenity. A top ten disc, for sure. And essential disc for fans of MJQ, and just about everyone else, too, for that matter.


Track Listing: A Love Song, Watergate Blues, Django, Century Rag, No More Weary Blues, Suite for Pop, Hanna's Mood

Personnel: Percy Heath--cello and bass; Jeb Patton--piano; Peter Washington--bass; Albert "Tootie" Heath-drums

Year Released: 2004 | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

Interviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Charlie Parker Charlie Parker
sax, alto
Dizzy Gillespie Dizzy Gillespie
trumpet
Stan Getz Stan Getz
sax, tenor
Art Farmer Art Farmer
flugelhorn
Paul Chambers Paul Chambers
bass, acoustic
Ron Carter Ron Carter
bass
Sonny Stitt Sonny Stitt
saxophone
Johnny Griffin Johnny Griffin
sax, tenor
Ray Brown Ray Brown
bass, acoustic
Shelly Manne Shelly Manne
drums

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "The Evolution Suite" CD/LP/Track Review The Evolution Suite
by Troy Dostert
Published: October 10, 2016
Read "Natural Perception" CD/LP/Track Review Natural Perception
by Edward Blanco
Published: September 5, 2016
Read "Joyride" CD/LP/Track Review Joyride
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 27, 2016
Read "Fourtune" CD/LP/Track Review Fourtune
by Duncan Heining
Published: November 28, 2016
Read "Terre II" CD/LP/Track Review Terre II
by Tyran Grillo
Published: June 7, 2016
Read "Father Figure" CD/LP/Track Review Father Figure
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 3, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!